Believing that Dr. Martin Luther King would have stood for marriage equality.
By Melanie Nathan, April 04, 2013.
When Dr. Marin Luther King, Jnr. was assassinated on April 04, 1968, I was a small child in South Africa, living apartheid. I came to the United States in 1985, before apartheid ended, expecting a country that embraced full equality. I was wrong. The United States segregated gays and lesbians through exclusion and applying different laws to same-sex couples. As time moved on it became worse, as the United States implemented The Defense of Marriage Act, in 1994, that defined marriage for the union of a man and woman, only.
Today a post apartheid South Africa has an all inclusive constitution that embraces sexual orientation and gender identity with full equality. The United States of America does not. Yet I believe that had Dr. King been alive today, he would have stood hand in hand on those steps of SCOTUS and maybe we would not have had to be there in the first place.
Martin Luther King, Jnr. was an American clergyman, activist, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, best known for his seismic role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience. His impact on race relations in the United States, beginning in the mid-1950s led to the ending of the the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the United States.
While in Washington D.C. I visited Dr.Kings memorial, a stunning experience – almost hallowed ground – as thousands paid tribute. This visit took place during an historic week, for LGBT Americans. The very week that we stood on the steps of SCOTUS, screaming for equality, during the time that nine Supreme Court justices heard arguments for and against marriage equality, one of the very basic civil rights, denied to gays and lesbians in most of America, and a civil right that where allowed in America still denigrates LGBTI Americans to second class citizen, through the denial of over 1,100 federal rights and benefits.
I had the great honor of meeting Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton while Kristina Lapinski of GAY U.S.A. the Movie interviewed her for the film. The Congresswoman, an organizing student during the Civil Rights movement spoke to us of her experiences with gay civil march organizer, Bayard Rustin, a critical Dr. King advisor, and also spoke movingly of the essential humanity of equality for for all.
Although a coalition of African American Pastors have held the hand of the anti-gay NOM, and reacted negatively to equality for same-sex couples in marriage, such as Rev. Bill Owens who noted in this statement that promotes segregation for children with single, adoptive, or same-gender parents:
“Gay activists are wrong to claim the mantle of the civil rights movement in their push to redefine marriage fort all- the most important right related to marriage is the right of every child to a mother and father.”
In stark contrast are the words of Dr. King himself. I cannot think of a freedom of spirit, more in keeping with the ideal of the civil rights movement and Dr. King’s statement, than the right to equal treatment under the law when it comes to marrying the love of one’s life:
“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, EQUALITY, and freedom for their spirits.”